Why Responsible E-Waste Disposal is Essential for Enterprise Cybersecurity
Responsible e-waste disposal best practices for organisations are increasingly required to meet enterprise cybersecurity threats. Here’s why.
As the threats of costly data breaches and non-compliance with data security regulations, enterprise cybersecurity must consider the threats posed by the disposal of e-waste. Not only does the irresponsible disposal of e-waste pose threats to enterprise cybersecurity, but it also exacerbates the growing environmental problems of e-waste as well.
Below are a few key considerations that organisations must consider concerning responsible e-waste disposal.
What is E-Waste?
In the European Union, electronic waste (e-waste) includes “electronic devices and electrical equipment that define modern life.” This includes all manner of electronics and electrical devices from large household appliances to IT and telecommunications equipment.
As much as 14.1 per cent of all e-waste in the EU is generated from IT and telecommunications equipment, both from private consumers (mobile phones, laptops, etc.) and businesses, the latter of which tends to generate far more waste due to economies of scale. Some of the e-waste generated by a typical organisation include computers, tablets, phones, data centres, hard drives, and much more.
Organisations are under increasing pressure to reduce, reuse, and recycle e-waste both for environmental reasons, but there is also the growing threat of severe and frequent cyber attacks – many of which are attributable to improperly discarded e-waste.
The Global E-Waste Crisis
As of 2018, the average recycling rate of e-waste in EU27 countries was 38.9 per cent. Consider that e-waste is the fastest growing waste stream and the majority is left unsorted and it should be clear that considerable problems are going forward.
The two main problems that organisations must address are the environmental impacts of their digital devices and e-waste disposal practices as they reach their end of life (EoL) as well as the cybersecurity concerns and threats posed by improper e-waste disposal.
Holding all other things constant, ceteris paribus, the rise in demand for scaleable IT solutions and infrastructure will result in even greater quantities of e-waste in the coming years.
One example of this can be seen with the rise of cloud-based storage solutions as an alternative to Data Centre Services, resulting in many organisations partially or fully undergoing Data Center Decommissioning and subsequently generating large quantities of e-waste.
The Dangers of E-Waste
Electronics and IT assets used within an organisation may provide critical value for daily operations, but careful consideration must be given to the best methods of managing EoL IT assets. Moreover, enterprise cybersecurity is needed for mitigating cybersecurity threats whilst IT assets are in use, but it’s also needed for discarded devices.
One of the greatest dangers to enterprise cybersecurity comes from vulnerabilities in the organisation’s cybersecurity; the weakest link, if identified by a malicious entity, will certainly attract cyber-attacks. For many organisations, this weak link is a lack of security when managing EoL assets and e-waste.
Secondly, the effects of e-waste on the environment must be considered for both the organisation’s commitments to environmental stewardship as well as for the benefit of our only planet and those that live upon it.
Can E-Waste be Hacked?
Depending on how e-waste is processed at EoL, it can potentially be hacked with little to no effort. If the organisation takes no precautions when discarding e-waste, a criminal need not have much (or any) hacking experience to access sensitive data and cause a damaging data breach to the organisation.
Data breaches come from many different sources, but improper disposal of e-waste is certainly one of the easiest methods and therefore warrants careful management to mitigate these threats.
How often and how damaging are data breaches to an organisation? In the UK, the Cyber Security Breaches Survey 2021 found that 39 per cent of businesses suffered a data breach within the past 12 months. The majority of these came from phishing attempts, but a substantial number came from unauthorised access, which includes accessing data held on EoL IT assets.
In terms of financial damage, the cost of a data breach is currently at its highest ever recorded value. According to IBM’s average cost of a data breach in 2021, the 17-year high cost of a data breach is $4.24 million (about €3.74 million).
It should be evident that the growing severity and financial damage caused by data breaches pose a massive risk to enterprise cybersecurity. While investing in network security and training employees on how to identify phishing attempts should remain, businesses should devote greater resources towards the mitigation of cyber threats stemming from e-waste.
How to Manage E-Waste Securely and Sustainably
For businesses in need of secure, sustainable management strategies for e-waste and enterprise cybersecurity, the emergence of practical, cost-effective solutions have become increasingly adopted within the past few decades.
In terms of data security, all EoL IT assets must be thoroughly and securely destroyed, rendering all sensitive data completely irretrievable before being discarded. For example, IT Asset Disposal must ensure that all data is destroyed mechanically, by punching, shredding, or disintegrating the hard drive.
More importantly for environmental reasons, organisations should consider adopting a circular economy or retaining the services of an ITAD company with a robust Circular Economy such as Wisetek.
Since March 2020, the EU has adopted the circular economy action plan (CEAP) which endeavours to transition the EU towards a circular economy by enacting legislative and non-legislative measures with regards to product life cycles, consumption, and waste diversion. Consequently, many businesses will be incentivised towards circular economy models for their e-waste. This is where IT asset disposition makes a strong impact.
It’s important to note that the secure and sustainable management of e-waste is increasingly being mandated by laws and regulations in jurisdictions around the world in response to the rapid growth of the e-waste crisis as well as the threats posed to data privacy. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is one of many such regulations in effect in the EU and the UK (GDPR UK).
Therefore, enterprise cybersecurity and responsible e-waste disposal are both essential for businesses’ interests as well as for maintaining compliance with the growing number of jurisdictions worldwide now implementing and enforcing data privacy and data disposal laws and regulations.
The Importance of Data Destruction for Enterprise Cybersecurity
Organisations must consider two broad approaches to enterprise cybersecurity: IT infrastructure currently in operation and the mitigation of risks from IT assets no longer in operation. The scope of this blog post will examine the latter only as it pertains to e-waste.
ITAD is an ideal solution to this problem, but it’s important to keep in mind that not all ITAD companies are alike. We welcome you to streamline your ideal ITAD partner with this checklist.
A good ITAD company will not only provide value through secure, thorough Data Destruction, but they must also provide fully auditable processes that are transparent yet confidential and secure between the ITAD company and the client. For example, Wisetek provides Data Destruction Certificates and video verification of data destruction to ensure compliance and accountability.
We also provide added value through services such as TotalRMA and AudIT, which facilitate online IT asset returns with full asset inventory tracking and traceability as well as complete global reporting and inventory services of IT assets, respectively.
Furthermore, your preferred ITAD partner should be fully qualified and certified wherever your business operates. Wisetek holds a wide range of Certifications to which we remain compliant, wherever we operate.
Why Responsible E-Waste Disposal is Needed in an Enterprise Cybersecurity Strategy
IT Asset Disposition (ITAD) is amongst the most popular and practical solutions for businesses operating globally. ITAD ensures that businesses remain fully compliant with data disposal and data security laws and regulations in the EU, US, or anywhere else where they may operate. While organisations can prepare strategies and policies to better manage their inventories of IT assets, this is often outsourced to an ITAD Company that specialises in various services to meet the needs of their clients.
Responsible e-waste disposal is essential for enterprise security because it minimises the threat of data breaches, reduces needless e-waste through diversion from landfills, and maintains compliance within jurisdictions as well as adherence to corporate social responsibility (CSR).
ITAD companies such as Wisetek can tick all of these boxes for clients, all while maximising the return on investment of IT assets through our circular economy model as well as our commitment to a zero-landfill policy which benefits the environment as well as the environmental stewardship initiatives of clients.
Contact Wisetek for Responsible, Secure E-Waste Disposal
Wisetek is a globally trusted leader in ITAD & data erasure services designed to keep your organisation secure and compliant. We welcome you to get in touch with our team today to learn more about our ITAD services and how we can boost your enterprise cybersecurity.